As evidence of cannabis’ many benefits mounts, so does the interest from the global pharmaceutical industry, known as Big Pharma. The entrance of such behemoths will radically transform the cannabis industry—once heavily stigmatized, it is now a potentially game-changing source of growth for countless companies.
Today’s infographic comes to us from CB2 Insights, and explores how and why the notorious Big Pharma are interested in the nascent cannabis industry.
Who are “Big Pharma”?
The term refers to some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, considered especially influential as a group. To give a sense of their sheer size, the market cap of the top 10 Big Pharma companies is $1.7 trillion—Johnson & Johnson being the largest, with a market capitalization of $374 billion.
So far, Big Pharma has watched the cannabis industry from the sidelines, deterred by regulatory concerns. What we are seeing now is the sleeping giant’s takeover slowly intensifying as more patents, partnerships, and sponsored clinical trials come to fruition.
Could Cannabis be Sold Over the Counter?
The cannabis plant has been used in medicine for 6,000 years. However, there is still considerable debate around the role it plays in healthcare today. There are currently almost 400 active and completed clinical trials worldwide surrounding cannabidiol (CBD), a type of cannabinoid that makes up 40% of the cannabis plant’s extract.
Cannabis relies on CBD’s therapeutic properties, and recent studies suggest it may be useful in combating a variety of health conditions, such as:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Cancer side effects
As of 2019, 33 states and the District of Columbia have legalized cannabis for medical use. Its potential for pain management has led some experts to recommend it as an alternative to addictive painkillers, with one study of 13 states showing opiate-related deaths decreasing by over 33% in the six years since medical cannabis was legalized.
As the industry evolves, data is becoming increasingly important in understanding the potential of cannabis—both as a viable medical treatment, and as a recreational product. The shift away from anecdotal evidence towards big data will inform future policies, and give rise to a new era of consumer education.
Big Pharma’s Foray into Cannabis
Further legalization of cannabis will challenge Big Pharma’s bottom line, and poach more than $4 billion from pharma sales annually. In fact, medical cannabis sales are projected to reach $5.9 billion in 2019, from an estimated 24 million patients.
Seven of Canada’s top 10 cannabis patent holders are major multinational pharmaceutical companies, a trend that is not unique to Canada.
|Company Rank||?? Canadian Patents||Company Rank||?? U.S. Patents|
|1. Novartis||21||1. Abbvie||59|
|2. Pfizer||14||2. Sanofie||39|
|3. GW Pharmaceuticals||13||3. Merck||35|
|4. Ericsson||13||4. Bristol-Myers Squibb||34|
|5. Merck||11||5. GW Pharmaceuticals||28|
|6. Solvay Pharmaceuticals||7||6. Pfizer||25|
|7. Kao Corporation||7||7. Hebrew University of Jerusalem||19|
|8. Ogeda SA||7||8. Roche||17|
|9. Sanofi||6||9. University of Connecticut||16|
|10. University of Connecticut||6||10. U.S. Health and Human Services||13|
It comes as no surprise that many pharmaceutical giants have already formed strong partnerships with cannabis companies, such as Novartis and Tilray, who will develop and distribute medical cannabis together in legal jurisdictions around the world.
Data is the Missing Link
While the body of knowledge about the many uses of cannabis continue to grow, clinical evidence is key for widespread adoption.
Products backed by data will be a defining criteria for major companies to come into the market en masse. And ultimately, Big Pharma’s entry could accelerate public understanding and confidence in cannabis as a viable option for a range of ailments, and mark the next major milestone for the industry.